Chelsea playing in new and different colours might seem like a foreign concept to some Blues fans, but a quick trip down memory lane shows it has happened far more often than you might think…
For a club nicknamed the Blues, and with the anthem Blue is the Colour blaring out around Stamford Bridge every matchday, it may surprise you to learn that red has actually played a far more prominent part in the history of our kit than what’s been seen during the Premier League era.
Indeed, during the 1980s and early-90s, when kit design was a little on the, shall we say, experimental side, red was the go-to colour for our away strip – and a regular feature on our home strips, too.
If you delve deeper into our history, you’ll see that from the first time we turned out in a red away kit, way back in 1911, every decade from then until the end of the century we played in red at least once.
In fact, when we met Dynamo Moscow in a friendly in 1945, the biggest-ever crowd for a Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge saw us in a red jersey, paired with white shorts and black socks, so that our visitors from Russia could wear their traditional blue strip. What lovely hosts we were. And then, a decade later, our change strip was also red as we went on to be crowned Division One champions for the first time.
Since then, we regularly turned out in red during the Sixties and Seventies. Legendary Blues boss Dave Sexton sparked the trend, thanks to his infatuation with the great Hungary side of the 1950s, which led to the colour being paired with white and green.
A slight variation of it, as seen above on the late, great Ray Wilkins, was our first change in the 1976/77 promotion-winning campaign and a precursor of what was to come, as unfortunately the beloved Blues skipper would move to Manchester United by the end of that decade.
Once the mid-Eighties rolled around, Chelsea went back to an all-red affair for the 1985/86 season and this kit, modelled below by Pat Nevin, is one of only six worn by the Blues to not go on sale to the public since replica kits were widely introduced in the late-1970s.
Over the next few years, kit design could definitely be described as being a little more ‘out there’ and we flitted between a red-and-white hooped shirt which was steeped more in rugby traditions than football, before really ripping up the rulebook with the aforementioned diamond effect that disproved any diamond-related cliché one wishes to trot out!
By the time red made its most recent appearance as the predominant colour in a Chelsea away strip, in 1992-94, you could perhaps argue that the pin stripes were more in keeping with the club’s trendy west London tag. But what were they thinking with the lace-up collar?
Of course, our new kit also takes inspiration from a couple of iconic faded-stripe designs at a time when the sleeping giant of Chelsea Football Club was awakening in the mid-Nineties.
Ruud Gullit presumably didn’t realise graphite and tangerine was kit-maker code for ‘grey and orange’ when he traded one fashion capital – Milan – for another when making the move to London in 1995.
And the next off the conveyor belt, a yellow and blue strip, will always hold a special place in the heart of any Blues fan of a certain vintage, as we wore it for famous semi-final victories over Wimbledon (FA Cup) and Vicenza (Cup Winners’ Cup) that confirmed we were well and truly back in the big time.
After a summer recruitment process that has seen a whole host of star names added to an already exciting group of players, will similar happy memories be made in our new third kit? Only time will tell…
Chelsea’s 2020-21 third kit, combining vintage club colours, Nike sneaker heritage and a dose of 1990s nostalgia to create a fresh look for the new season, is on sale tomorrow (Thursday) from the official online store and the Stamford Bridge Megastore. - Past kit images courtesy of Mark Sandom